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Shuswap Water Quality Research, Reports and Information

Here are some educational resources about water quality in the Shuswap.

Shuswap Watershed Council Annual Water Quality Reports

NEW! The SWC has completed its seventh annual report on water quality in the Shuswap watershed.

Water Quality Report 2022

The report summarizes 2022 water quality monitoring results and information on:

  • Shuswap Lake, Mara Lake, Mabel Lake, Sugar Lake, White Lake and Adams Lake
  • Salmon River and Shuswap River
  • Popular beaches
  • Algal blooms and cyanobacteria
  • Highlights on new work by the Province of BC: Water Quality Objectives for Shuswap Lake and a detailed water quality assessment for Shuswap Lake
  • Aquatic invasive species, and how to prevent spreading them
  • The SWC’s advocacy to government regulators for better monitoring and action to protect water quality
  • The SWC’s Water Quality Grant Program to protect and improve water quality in the Shuswap
  • A Phosphorus Action Plan for the Shuswap watershed.

Read the Report

Also see:

For water quality reports published prior to 2014 by the former Shuswap Lake Integrated Planning Process (SLIPP), please refer to the SLIPP Resource Archive.

Nutrient research by UBC–Okanagan

Nutrients have long been of interest in the Shuswap because of their importance to lake health and productivity, and their ability to trigger an algal bloom. Phosphorus (P), in particular, is a key nutrient in aquatic ecosystems because plants and animals such as algae, invertebrates and fish need P to grow and reproduce. Therefore, it’s essential for supporting a healthy ecosystem – but, excessive amounts of nutrients and algae growth can reduce water clarity, create odours, and reduce the quality of water for drinking and recreation.

Water quality monitoring in the Shuswap has indicated that generally, water quality is good in most locations at most times of year. It has also shown us that the largest loads of nutrients to the lakes are coming from the Shuswap and Salmon Rivers. The Shuswap Watershed Council wanted to understand this better, and gain answers to the following questions:

  • Are there excess nutrients in the rivers that are not from the natural environment?
  • If so, where are they coming from and how are they getting into the rivers?

Phase I

The SWC worked with researchers at UBC-Okanagan to answer these questions. Two phases of research were carried out, beginning in 2016. Phase I of the research took place from 2016-2019, and it involved the collection and analysis of water samples by the research team from 20 different sites on the Shuswap and Salmon Rivers, and from over 80 additional sites at ditches, seasonal streams, and wells.

This work essentially created nutrient "budgets" for the two rivers, illustrating the changing concentrations of nutrients in the water as the rivers flow through their watersheds and accumulate nutrients off the landscape. Water quality data was compiled and evaluated according to which geographic region of the watershed it was from, as well as which land type it is from. The results of this work show us which areas of the watershed we ought to focus our efforts at mitigating, or decreasing, phosphorus inputs to the Shuswap River and Salmon River in order to protect water quality for the long term.

TR_SWC/SWC_UnderstandingNutrients_Jan2020_Cover_200px.jpgThe research results are summarized in a mini-report from the Shuswap Watershed Council: Understanding Nutrients and Water Quality in the Shuswap River and Salmon River.

Additionally, a portion of the research results are presented in one of the researcher’s Masters Thesis, A multi-method approach for determining a phosphorous budget for the Shuswap and Salmon Rivers in Southern Interior British Columbia, authored by Megan Ludwig, available on the UBC website.

Phase II

Phase II of the research involved the collection and analysis of a sediment core (a long tube of lake-bottom mud) from Mara Lake. Using a type of science called Paleolimnology, the research team determined the historic nutrient conditions in Mara Lake and illustrated how nutrient-loading to the lake has changed over the past 150 years, since the time of settlement and land use changes in the Shuswap River valley.

Phase II research methods and results are summarized in a new, narrated streaming slide presentation called "Mara Lake Nutrient History Study," prepared by Nicholas Hebda, Ph.D candidate, who is a member of the research team.

Watch the Slideshow

Research reports

Full technical reports from the research team at UBC - Okanagan are also available:

The Shuswap Watershed Council would like to thank Dr. Curtis, Dr. Walker, Megan Ludwig and Nicholas Hebda for their participation in this research.

Monitoring Shuswap Lake for contaminants of emerging concern

In 2017 the SWC initiated a water quality monitoring project in Shuswap Lake to test for the presence of substances called nonylphenols. Nonylphenols are a group of synthetic (man-made) compounds found in many industry and consumer products such as detergents, shampoos, cosmetics, lubricants, plastics, rubbers, paints and more. Nonylphenols can be toxic and persistent in the environment, and harmful to algae, invertebrates and fish. They are not routinely monitored in fresh water by environmental regulators.

Because of the occurrence of nonylphenols in such a variety of household consumer products, it’s quite possible that household wastewater contains small amounts of the substances. That possibility, combined with the awareness of nonylphenols’ potential harmfulness to lakes and rivers (but no current understanding about them in the Shuswap) is what led the SWC to initiate this special monitoring project.

The results are good!

The results of the monitoring project, which ran from spring to fall 2017, were very good. The monitoring involved taking samples at various locations in Shuswap Lake (Salmon Arm Bay), and from the Salmon Arm Wastewater Treatment Plant. Nonylphenols were not detected in any samples taken from the lake; a trace amount of one kind of nonylphenol was detected in the treatment plant effluent samples.

These monitoring results suggest that nonylphenols are entering the lake via treatment plant effluent, but in such minuscule amounts that sophisticated water quality analysis can’t detect or measure their presence in the lake. The Canadian Water Quality Guideline for the Protection of Aquatic Life sets the guideline for nonylphenols in fresh water at 1 microgram per litre, and Shuswap Lake is well within that limit.

The Shuswap Watershed Council thanks the City of Salmon Arm and the BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy for their support and participation in this monitoring project.

For more information, see the SWC’s media release Shuswap Watershed Council’s monitoring project shows good results.

Agricultural Nutrient Management Report

The Shuswap Watershed Council commissioned the following report from a professional agrologist in 2014:

Sources of Nutrients Study

Prior to the formation of the Shuswap Watershed Council, the Shuswap Lake Integrated Planning Process commissioned the following report from a professional biologist in 2014:

Our Vision

Social well-being supported by a vibrant economy and sustained by a healthy environment.

About the Fraser Basin Council

The Fraser Basin Council (FBC) is a charitable non-profit organization that brings people together to advance sustainability in the Fraser River Basin and throughout BC. Established in 1997, FBC is a collaboration of four orders of government (federal, provincial, local and First Nations) along with those from the private sector and civil society. We work with people in multiple sectors, helping them find collaborative solutions to today’s issues through a commitment to the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainability. Our focus is on healthy water and watersheds, action on climate change and air quality and strong, resilient communities and regions.

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Contact Us

FBC has offices in Vancouver, Kamloops, Williams Lake and Prince George. We also have staff located in Abbotsford and Vernon.

To reach us, see FBC Offices and FBC Staff.

Our main office is:

Fraser Basin Council
1st Floor, 470 Granville Street
Vancouver, BC V6C 1V5

T: 604 488-5350
F: 604 488-5351

We are grateful at the Fraser Basin Council Society to live and work on the unceded ancestral
territories of the Indigenous Nations of British Columbia.